I have been a Sterling client since 1996. During this time I have seen how the program works both in turning around an existing practice as well as in starting a brand new one.
I graduated from dentistry school in South Carolina in 1991 and, after serving a year of residency, opened up my own practice in Charleston. It wasn’t going well. I had all the wrong people working for me. I had to deal with a constant refrain of “I need a day off”, “I need extra money” and “I can’t work today.” I couldn’t get any work done because they were walking all over me.
Then one day, my receptionist walked out for lunch and never came back. That same week, someone from Sterling called. I explained what had happened and asked, “What do I do now?” He said, “Come out here and we’ll teach you what to do.” So, we devised a plan for me to take some time off and go out there for some management training. I’ve been grateful ever since.
The statistical management course was my favorite. It spelled out exactly how to run a practice by the numbers so you can achieve the goals that you set. Other courses enabled me to be a better manager and to deal with difficult employees and patients. It was great.
As soon as I got back the practice started doing better. The first year we increased by about 25 percent, from around $300,000 to about $400,000, and it continued to rise every year since then. It never went back down.
There were so many changes for the better it would be hard to list them all. We managed by statistics and the scheduling was done in a way that made it possible to be more productive. The office was organized to eliminate distractions and double-work.
With the office well-organized, I could actually be a dentist, rather than spending my time telling the other staff what to do. Previously staff were always asking me what to do next and how to do it. Now, they already know their jobs or put their questions in writing so I could answer them when I wasn’t busy treating patients. As a result, I didn’t get interrupted constantly. This meant that I could do more dentistry which allowed the whole office to be more productive.
I’ve been out to Sterling’s offices several times since that initial trip. For example, I went to one seminar where I learned how to do a better job presenting treatment plans and handling patient objections. This makes it easier to get patients to agree to the whole treatment plan, rather than just coming for a quick repair when their teeth start hurting.
With the office running better and productivity up, I was able to start taking more time off. Prior to Sterling, I had been working five days a week and was afraid to take any time off because I didn’t have any financial cushion. I was just working to pay the bills. But as I got more productive I could take more time off and work less hours. I could also be more relaxed about taking time off since I knew the business was doing well and would continue to do so.
One other area that I addressed with Sterling was how to hire competent, stable personnel. Now, when hiring, I no longer feel that I have to cater to whatever the applicants want. I’m the boss and I tell them what I want. If they want to work here, great. But if not, I can find someone better for the job.
As I mentioned above, my receptionist had walked out right before I started with Sterling. Well, utilizing what I had learned in my management training, I hired a new receptionist who would still be today with me if I hadn’t moved. Instead she’s with the doctor who bought the practice from me.
And that brings me to the second part of the story. I was originally from Massachusetts and my family lives in New England. I wanted to move back there. So, since the practice was very productive, had a steady stream of new patients and was quite profitable, I was able to sell it for an excellent price and move back north.
We settled in Brunswick, Maine where we could be near the shore since my husband and I both like to sail. I opened a brand new practice there about seven months ago and it is steadily growing.
Whenever you open a practice you have to hire staff, put in new systems and build up a client base. But, with my Sterling training, this time I knew what to do and how to do it. It has gone much smoother than when I started practicing in Charleston. I also now know how to do a much better job of interviewing prospective employees and know how to pick better people.
I used to accept insurance, but this practice is cash only. We do CareCredit and accept credit cards, but we do not accept insurance payments. While we do help the patients out with their insurance paperwork, the patient is responsible for paying the full bill no matter what their carrier winds up reimbursing. This works so much better than waiting months for the insurance payments and then going back to and trying to collect the remainder from the patients. We have nearly one hundred percent collections now. Doing this would have been much harder if I hadn’t done the Sterling program. But now I am much more confident in my ability to profitably run the practice and know that I don’t need to put up with the insurance companies’ delays and low rates.
Overall, being a Sterling client has made a huge difference for me as a dentist and business owner. In the program, you learn so much about yourself and others, and how to run the practice, that it makes life so simple.
Kathleen Winn, DMD